Skip to content

The College Board COVID-Era AP Exam: Another Botch Job

May 15, 2020

The College Board is offering its Advanced Placement (AP) tests in an abbreviated, roughly-45-minute formats that students complete remotely and submit according to the College Board’s schedule. The first round of testing began May 11, 2020.

In keeping with the College Board’s established history of ineptness as a high-stakes testing entity (see here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here for examples), the organization once again has thousands of shocked and upset high school students and their parents suffering the consequences of having to rely on the College Board to competently deliver.

In the following tweet, the faceless College Board entity understates the gravity of those thousands of students who were unable to successfully upload their AP test responses to the College Board’s server.

The College Board assumed no responsibility and instead plays up a “99%” success rate as it vaguely blamed student browsers as “a primary cause”:

In 2018-19, 2.8 million students took 5.1 million AP exams. So, the hidden failure in that “99% success rate” is that the “unsuccessful,” College Board-donwplayed, one percent of AP student test takers translates to thousands of students.

thinker facepalm

The numerous student and parent comments to the above tweet underscore the College Board’s reputation for testing ineptitude. For example, a number of commenters noted that they were able to submit their responses for the first test item but not the second, or for one exam but not another:

Such is not a browser problem, but it sure reads like an overloaded server problem. Too, some students stated that they were able to complete the trial-run without a problem, only to face being unable to upload responses to the actual exam:

In other cases, students stated that they received a message that their responses were successfully uploaded only to receive a message to the contrary some time afterwards:

Again, sounds like a server issue– which some commenters also observed:

College Board’s “solution” to this traumatic problem is to offer students another chance to reexperience it by retaking the test:

Despite its high-stakes-exam incompetence and efforts to hold itself blameless for this testing chaos, the College Board appears to have had no problem processing its AP test fees:

In response to this AP fiasco, one frustrated test taker, Eliana Sisman, began this petition on May 11, 2020, to either allow AP test takers to resubmit work without having to retake the exam or offer those affected by the AP “malfunction” opportunity to complete an even shorter test:

My dear friend Natalie and I are two of thousands of AP students who weren’t able to submit our AP exams due to a malfunction in the College Board website. We’ve worked hard all year to learn and earn some college credit so we can have a head start and make sure we can graduate college on time or early. We’ve studied hard for the last few weeks and were looking forward to earning some college credit today. Now we might have to retake our tests several weeks from now or lose our chance to get college credit. This would cut into the free time we’d been looking forward to enjoying with our families and friends after all our hard work.

We, along with all our sisters and brothers in humanity, have already been having a hard time because of COVID and we were already tired and stressed out and a lot of us have been struggling with sadness and mental health issues. This will make all of that worse.

Fortunately, there’s a solution. Most of us still have our work and answers saved. The college board can give us time to re-submit after they fix their website. People might understandably worry allowing this will lead to cheating. But we already had opportunities to cheat because COVID has prevented College Board from implementing the strict anti-cheating policies they usually do. The vast majority of us didn’t cheat not because we couldn’t but because we’re honest. Those who do cheat can be caught with anti-cheating tech like Turnitin which is widely used and effective on take-home assignments.

People who don’t have saved work to re-submit should be given a very short and easy make-up test to make up for the added difficulty they’re enduring because of this malfunction.

As of this writing, the petition has over 12,500 signatures.



My latest bookA Practical Guide to Digital Research: Getting the Facts and Rejecting the Lies, is now available for purchase on Amazon anvia Garn Press!


Follow me on Twitte@deutsch29blog



  1. John Plencner permalink

    When are we going to do away with this “rip-off” of our students. Co-enrollment courses with the local JC are a thousand times better than the AP cash cow. The students are earning actual colleges credits, and do not have to pay big bucks and endure incredible stress for the high stakes exams at the end of the school year.

    The CB has done excellent work with their newest course content and outlines, but there are much better options out there than taking the AP course. Cousera is one that comes to mind besides the JC’s.

  2. Relevant, related resource: Does College Board Deserve Public Subsidies?

  3. Threatened Out West permalink

    I had panicked 9th graders who couldn’t even get into the test, and would therefore not even count in the so-called 99%. A teacher in the AP Human Geography Facebook page collected answers from teachers of 18,000 students. The failure rate appears to be closer to 7%. AND if something goes wrong on the retake, College Board will NOT refund the kids’ money.

    • Threatened Out West permalink

      CB has just announced that with this week’s tests, students can now email their answers if they don’t upload. BUT, they won’t accept any emails from last week’s tests. The kids can email for the make up test, but precious good that does now for those kids who were screwed in last week’s test.

      Email was an EASY solution that should have been instituted before the test, or certainly immediately after the first test as they discovered the issues. But CB waited a WEEK?????

  4. The College Board needs real humans to offer tech support before, and during the exam. It is unacceptable to go through an entire exam and not be able to submit it. Any web page designer worth being hired makes their code backwards-compatible, so that it doesn’t matter how old the browser is! To have an automated message blaming the broken web page on each person’s allegedly outdated browser, is also unacceptable!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. JD2718
  2. Why High Stakes Testing Was Cancelled This Year (and Probably Will Be Next Year, Too) | gadflyonthewallblog
  3. The College Board COVID-Era AP Exam: Another Botch Job — deutsch29 – Nonpartisan Education Group
  4. Mercedes Schneider: The College Board Blames Students for Its Botched AP Exams | Diane Ravitch's blog
  5. Retiring Advanced Placement | JD2718
  6. Why High Stakes Testing Was Cancelled This Year (and Probably Will Be Next Year, Too) | Learning2sing
  7. College Board’s AP-botch Lawsuit: No “PR Stunt” | deutsch29

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s